Nikon Museum – Prototype Lenses

I got my first Nikon camera in about 1974, so when I first heard about the Nikon Museum on Nikon Rumors I went in April of this year on a stopover in Tokyo. 

I really enjoyed the exhibit.  Nikon has a permanent exhibit touching on all aspects of their business with an emphasis on camera bodies and lenses. Periodically this is augmented with a special exhibit on a more focussed topic.  Then when I learned on Nikon Rumors there would be a special exhibit of Prototype Lenses this fall, I went again on my stopover in Tokyo on October 6th.  

Here we are at the entrance to the exhibit in Tokyo.

And a plaque outlining the display.   Overall about 60 prototype lenses are on display, some of which made it into production but most of which did not.  Ten lenses are showcased in individual displays, and using the new Nikon Z7 camera body, images were made with these ten prototype lenses and displayed.  Unfortunately but understandably we are not allowed to take photographs of the photographer’s copyrighted work, so I cannot show the images here, you will just have to go to Tokyo and see for yourself.  I can say that they images produced with the prototype lenses and the Z7 are quite competent.  

Let’s have a look at a few of these lenses.  First shown is reported the world’s first telephoto zoom for a still camera, an 85-250mm f/4 lens developed in 1958.

Next up, a Reflex 400mm f/8 from 1962.

And one of the most interesting lenses of the entire exhibit, a 35-400mm f/4.5 zoom lens from 1973. Wow, this would have been big, heavy and expensive in 1973.  The images made with this lens and the Z7 are really great, wish I could show them here.

A prototype version of the 58mm f/1.2 Noct Nikkor from 1974.  This one made it into production.  Wish I had a copy!

A 10mm Fisheye from 1981.

Next up, four display cases with many more prototype lenses.

A display case with prototype telephoto lenses.

A display case with prototype normal to midrange lenses.

A display case with prototype wide angle lenses.

A display case with prototype fisheye and special purpose lenses.

Part of the permanent exhibition, a display case of production camera bodies going back to the first rangefinder.

Part of the permanent exhibition, one of several displays of production lenses.

All in all, if you have any history with Nikon cameras, and perhaps even if you don’t, I think you’ll find a visit to the Nikon Museum really enjoyable.  I’ve brought my wife along twice now, which makes it a little easier to explain why I just might need that next extra lens or camera body.  All images taken with a Nikon D5 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

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